AT: Where do you consider yourself within the contemporary poetry scene and within larger literary histories?
CS: I’m not quite sure where I fit in within contemporary American poetry or larger literary histories. I read so broadly that I feel like so many different schools, camps, styles of poetry are present within my work. The easiest pathway for me to understand my literature though, is in considering the legacies of other literary activists such as Audre Lorde and June Jordan. But I write so very different than them. Maybe I write more similarly to Ai, or maybe Roque Dalton, or Eileen Myles, or Eduardo C Corral, or CA Conrad, or Natalie Diaz, or Layli Long Soldier, or Lucie Brock Broido or Ocean Vuong. I don’t know exactly where I fit to be honest. I think I’ve become less concerned with this over the years too.
AT: What are you reading right now? And is there anyone you would like to recommend?
CS: I’ve just finished reading Whereas by Layli Long Soldier. It is one of the most genius books Ive read in the past five years. I highly recommend people buy it. This book is giving me a renewed value of grammar, punctuation, syntax, form. The interaction between form and content is so very precise in this book. I am floored by her talent.
AT: Aside from poetry, you also write essays, and book reviews. How did you start writing in these other forms and do you have a preference for one mode or another?
CS: I started editing Nepantla first. Then people were asking to publish my poems but I wasn’t ready. I then started to write book reviews, after editing, because I wanted to support writers that I knew. I was interning at the Poetry Society of America and I wrote weekly book reviews there. I wanted to use my platform while I had it during that internship to support and give voice to as many writers of colour as possible. I think writing book reviews with Poetry Society of America gave me comfortability writing book reviews elsewhere. I was so afraid to publish and say words publicly when I first started writing. I didn’t want to be ‘wrong’ in public. Essays came to me a few years ago when I was poor. I started writing essays weekly for this GAY media site because I was poor and needed money. This was at the same time that I was on the Tour to End Queer Youth Homelessness. I made a handful of friends in journalism and now I keep writing essays too. I still think that poetry is where my heart is, though prose is often where I am most comfortable, and when painting on a canvas – probably because the expectations for myself are lower.